You probably didn’t have the pleasure of meeting either Alika or ‘Ele.
They were the first two tropical cyclones of the season in Hawai’i. A third fizzled out even before it could get a name from the list. It was Tropical Depression 2-C.
Tropical Storm Alika and Hurricane ‘Ele got their Hawaiian names because they formed in the massive area known as the Central Pacific, which includes the Hawaiian Islands. “‘Ele” is the Hawaiian word for “black.”
All three were far from the islands, and posed no threat, said Thomas A. Heffner, warning coordination meteorologist with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and Forecast Office in Honolulu.
Heffner predicted six to seven tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific for Hawai’i’s 2002 hurricane season, which runs June to November.
And history has shown that July and August are the peak months for generation of tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific (67 percent of the storms from 1961 through 2001).
But this is an El Nino year, where warmer-than-normal ocean waters can be part of a deadly tropical brew, and late-season storms are more common because of the warmer waters, he explained.
The entire Central Pacific area generally experiences more rainfall in El Nino years, especially in equatorial zones south of the islands, said Heffner. And more thunderstorms happen near the Equator in the Central Pacific in El Nino years.
Ingredients necessary for hurricane development include some type of weather disturbance, the warm ocean waters now felt in this El Nino year, and other conditions favorable for development of hurricanes, such as mild high-level winds.
Strong winds in the jetstream have sheered the tops off of would-be hurricanes in recent years. Equatorial moisture, though, is fuel for tropical cyclones, he warned.
And Hurricane ‘Iwa visited Kaua’i and Ni’ihau in November of 1982, and Hurricane ‘Iniki in September of 1992, both during El Nino years.
But with no tropical cyclones on the immediate horizon, now is a good time to take a quick refresher course on hurricane-season jargon, he said.
A hurricane watch or tropical storm watch means the threat of hurricane or tropical storm conditions exist for designated islands within 36 hours. Residents and visitors should listen to local radio stations, or watch television, for the latest weather information.
A hurricane warning or tropical storm warning means hurricane or tropical storm conditions are expected to occur for designated islands within 24 hours. Residents and visitors should listen to radio or watch TV for the latest weather information, and be prepared to evacuate if advised to do so by Kaua’i civil defense officials.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).